Why Dangerous Goods Automation is Critical in Today’s Supply Chain

Why Dangerous Goods Automation is Critical in Today’s Supply Chain

Many tasks are required to put a DG item into transport, and slow compliance processes result in slower fulfillment, deliveries and overall business.

In order to cope with compounding supply chain challenges and labor shortages, businesses continue automating their processes. Most already use TMS, ERP, WMS or OMS platforms and, by 2024, half will invest in applications that support artificial intelligence and advanced analytics capabilities. Due to its perceived complexity, many organizations continue to overlook one key facet of automation that can help or hinder their success: dangerous goods (DG) automation.  

Most automation platforms lack the functionality required to specifically address hazmat management processes. That’s why many operations still rely on manual or rudimentary processes for DG compliance. Such organizations are putting their operational efficiency, competitive positions, brand reputation and bottom line at risk. Organizations that embrace DG-specific automation, on the other hand, have a greater likelihood of success in today’s global climate.  

Automation and Dangerous Goods Shipping  

Shipping and handling goods classified as dangerous—from pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals to power tools and electric car batteries—can be complicated and time-consuming. The regulations are complex, vary depending on how and where the goods are transported, and change frequently. In order to meet customer shipping timeline expectations, organizations have to stay up-to-date on the latest regulations (and understand them), and must effectively align their operational processes to comply with those requirements. Unfortunately, many operations still rely on legacy manual or rudimentary processes for DG compliance, making the process even more challenging. 

Many tasks are required to put a DG item into transport, so slow compliance processes result in slower fulfillment, deliveries and overall business, especially for organizations constrained by staffing issues. Relying on manual processes wastes workers’ valuable time by having them repeat routine tasks such as researching DG shipping information or creating compliant documentation. Those wasted minutes impact overall efficiency and make it more difficult to overcome potentially costly disruptions. It’s also easy for people entering information manually to make mistakes—and compliance errors can bring about delays, stopped shipments, carrier penalties, civil penalties and other schedule-wrecking interruptions. 

Automation enables a company to compete more efficiently by streamlining, consolidating and modernizing the tasks required to ship DG, helping to overcome inefficiencies created by slower, redundant manual compliance processes. With DG shipping-specific software, organizations can improve operational productivity and avoid operational disruptions to keep pace with an evolving global supply chain. Because, in today’s increasingly competitive and strained environment, every worker and every minute counts. 

The Business Value of DG Automation 

Automating DG management processes provides several operational benefits. Here are six key areas that are boosted by DG automation. 

Shipping Processes. DG management software can help make operations more repeatable and reliable by producing documentation and enabling automatic validation of shipments, packaging, labels and markings against the latest regulations. This drives further efficiency and consistency for organizations with repetitive shipments or for those that ship the same material from multiple locations. 

Risk Mitigation. There is a high level of risk associated with shipping and handling DG. Relying on tested and accepted technology to ensure repeatable and essential compliance processes for every shipment reduces the risk of stopped shipments and fines related to noncompliance. It also helps reduce the chances of a shipping incident involving DG that could potentially impact employees, supply chain partners or public safety, or harm the environment or the company’s brand reputation.  

Labor Optimization. By automating DG processes, tasks are performed more quickly and with fewer delays, allowing workers to handle more hazmat shipments in less time or devote more time to higher value activities. Making team members (throughout the supply chain) more efficient helps businesses grow without having to add more personnel, thereby supporting better staff utilization and helping offset labor shortages. 

Data Transparency. Using DG shipping software for automation requires and enables the collection of complete and accurate hazmat data, including detailed information about a product’s components, dimensions and origins, helping organizations and their supply chain partners to make smart, efficient and compliant decisions. 

Training. Even with increased automation, training is still required for employees involved in shipping, handling and transporting DG. Adopting a modern, tech-driven approach to hazmat training through eLearning helps businesses quickly and effectively train and recertify employees—and do so remotely—something that has become increasingly beneficial due to the recent surge of remote workers.  

Financial Performance. Automating DG shipment validation helps avoid fines and maintain lean operations by ensuring all shipments are compliant. It also lets organizations discover new revenues by meeting the demand for hazardous materials that competitors may bypass due to complexity, potential costs of civil penalties or the potential for dangerous incidents. Automation makes shipment validation fast, simple and accurate, so operations can focus on growing revenues rather than unexpected costs. 

Implementing Dangerous Goods Automation 

Disruptions within the supply chain are compelling organizations to place greater focus on automation and risk management. Organizations who embrace and implement DG-specific automation further position themselves for success in today’s fast-paced and quickly changing climate. 

However, if left ignored, inefficient, manual compliance processes will remain a major gap in an organization’s automation efforts and can significantly slow down the entire supply chain and put the company at risk. These manual inefficiencies will manifest themselves as poor experiences and delayed shipments for your customers. 

The good news is that DG automation is easier than you might think. Your organization likely already has the product and shipping information and the workforce it needs. Investing in DG technology, and then integrating it into your other systems and processes, will further enhance your automation efforts and ultimately allow you to reduce operating costs while maintaining supply chain integrity and protecting your employees, customers and business.  

This article originally appeared in the June 2022 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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